Archived Story

National debt need not spin out of control

Published 12:00am Saturday, April 7, 2007


Larson, Power for Living

When Bill Clinton left office in 2001, President Bush inherited a $230 billion a year surplus in government funding and a rapidly declining national debt.

Six years later, we now have a $480 billion a year deficit, including the $180 billion annually borrowed from the Social Security Trust Fund. Our national debt has increased from 5.6 trillion dollars to nearly 9 trillion in the span of our current administration. This amounts to a debt of nearly $30,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. President Bush has been able to nearly double in six years the debt it took 224 years and 42 presidents before him to generate.

Many people think that this bulging debt is the result of the cost of fighting the Iraq war, yet the war effort has only amounted to something less than $400 billion in expenses so far, less than 1/10th of the increase in national debt.

Instead, when the numbers are analyzed, we find the bulk of the debt is a direct result of the President&8217;s tax cuts policy.

Nearly half of Bush&8217;s cuts went to those in the top 5 percent income bracket, more than one third going to the top 1 percent, and 1/6th going to the top 1/10th of 1 percent (typically those making over $1.6 million a year or more).

According to the latest IRS evaluation, in 2004, someone making $1.75 million per year received 200 times in actual dollars what someone making $35,000 a year received from this tax cut plan. Not counting entitlements, this reverse Robin Hood format has generated the lion&8217;s share of the national debt increase we see today.

The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center reports that households with incomes of more than $1 million a year &8212; the richest 0.2 percent of the U.S. population &8212; are receiving on average over $100,000 per year from these tax cuts, which, unless altered, is destined to grow to $123,000 by 2010.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, although our national debt tripled during the 12 years of the Reagan/Bush tax cut era of the 80&8217;s, both Reagan and the elder Bush agreed to scale back tax cuts when the fiscal situation deteriorated. We are seeing the exact opposite position being held by our current president.

Even Warren Buffett, business mogul and the second richest man in the world, considers this policy unfair. Buffett pointed out that in 2005 his effective tax rate was only half that of his receptionist. Since from Buffet&8217;s perspective, he could afford to easily pay 90 percent of his income in taxes without it affecting his lifestyle, he describes the situation not only as disturbing, but &8220;unconscionable.&8221;

We would be hard-pressed to find a fiscal policy less responsive to the needs of ordinary Americans or in the long term interests of our country.

The good news is that we are not victims. We can all help fix this problem.

We can ask our senators and representatives to repeal these skewed tax breaks and use this money in the future to pay down the national debt or put money toward the issues that ease suffering, preserve our future, or move our country forward.

Funding education, protecting the environment and addressing global warming are such initiatives that are worthy of our attention.

We could subsidize alternative fuels or give support funding to auto makers as incentives to produce more fuel efficient automobiles.

We could also provide incentives for corporations to share their profits more equally with workers, or simply share the tax breaks more evenly among all Americans.

Any of these measures would benefit our country as a whole, not just the wealthiest few.

Congress budget talks are going on right now. This is the time to speak up. The power is in our hands.

Let&8217;s not conceptualize this as a political issue around which to be divisive. It is a concern that affects the welfare of every family in your neighborhood, Democrat or Republican. People from all political parties can join hands in forging a remedy.

Because of the freedoms we enjoy, we have more power than most citizens of the world to shed a bright light on our future. Let your light shine into the offices of those who represent you. Isn&8217;t it great to know you can be a part of making the change? Call, e-mail, or write your decision makers in Washington today!

David Larson, M.S., C.P.C.C., is a Licensed Psychologist and Life Coach at the Institute For Wellness in Albert Lea, MN.

He can be reached at (507) 373-7913, or at his website, .